British Politics is in a constant battle with the youth and the Lib Dems should be on the frontline

 

As a party we have, despite recent results, a lot going for us. We have thousands of enthusiastic members, a huge amount of dedication and heaps of potential. Potential is the key word. The key values that the Liberal Democrats stand for are: liberalism, freedom and equality for all. These match very closely with what today’s young believe. So why in the last election did UKIP (10%) and the Greens (9%) perform better with the youth vote than the Lib Dems (8%)?

We are living in a liberal age. People have internationalist, democratic and progressive views. Yet the Lib Dems achieved only eight MPs in May. This is clear evidence that we have failed to spread the message of progressive liberalism to young voters. We need to accept as a party that we are no longer the campaigning powerhouse that we once were. The policies are there, the framework is there, the people are there but the clear concise message to young people is not.

I am lucky enough to hail from one of the largest and most effective constituencies of the Liberal Democrats campaigning wing: Westmorland and Lonsdale. Even on the quaint streets of Kendal, Bowness and Windermere I have seen how disenfranchised the youth are towards politics, and no matter how many times you quote policies the core “us vs them” feeling remains. This is another issue we must overcome. Ever since the coalition with the Tories and the tuition fees disaster we have been included in “Nasty party” bracket, which we must remove ourselves from if we ever want to win back the youth vote.

The “us vs them” approach that many of the youth (and wider population) hold is universal across the country and no party (including the Lib Dems) is doing anything to bridge that gap. Why don’t we start? Why don’t we show the wider public that politics isn’t an old man’s club, that there are elected candidates who aren’t power crazed lunatics and help steer a shift in popular opinion.

Many politicians look with disdain and surprise at the rise of anti-establishment figures such as Russell Brand. The reason so many young people look to well-known figures such as Brand, is that they offer a uniquely communicated message. Although the values that Brand offers are populist, they are confused and lack any form of substance. Nevertheless, they seem to offer a clear alternative to the so called “political elite of Westminster”.

As much as we hate to admit it Mr Farron is correct when he stated “we might have to learn from those we don’t like including UKIP” on effectively getting our message out there.

Our stance on the EU, Youth Unemployment, protecting housing benefits to young people, net neutrality and equality need to be advertised more towards younger voters. These are key policies that are simply unknown to the youth electorate and with the correct campaigning initiative the Lib Dems can very easily swing votes away from Labour and the Greens on these issues. This is where originations such as the Liberal youth must be more prominent within the party.

We fail to advertise our unique policies to young people and the wider population. We have to focus on turning those who hold liberal values into key Lib Dem supporters. We have still not recovered from the tuition fees issue and we are still feeling the aftershocks of entering a badly organized coalition with the Tories. We must put those mistakes in the past, and move on. If we don’t we will fall into insignificance.

The job now for our newly elected leader, and for us as passionate Liberal Democrats, is to win back the youth vote from the left and right of the political spectrum. If we do not want to become the party of yesterday we must inspire the generation of tomorrow.

* Jamie Dwan is a 15 year old party activist from Westmorland & Lonsdale

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61 Comments

  • Surely we do not have to still ask ourselved why we were bottom of the heap with our youth . Our record of course.
    We were percieved, because of our actions, Tuition Fees, broken promises etc, as betraying the youth vote. The worry is that if we have not yet learnt that how can we move forward.
    It will take time to eradicate the parties electoral miscalculations of the past 5 years but with a new approach, mapping out a clear identifiable course for the party, I mean the party not wishy washy coalition type policies, we can make it.
    BUT first we have to defeat the Green party and put them out of business. If we do not it is probably they who will put US out of business.

  • Until the party re-visits the tuition fee mess there will be little if any trust from students. Without support from students the parties youth vote will remain tiny. The most popular policy the LibDems have had for many, many years was completely messed up by the previous leadership. This policy more than any other needs Tim Farrons attention.

  • Theakes. Rather disturbing you want to put a political party ‘out of business’. Are these your liberal values? Certainly not democratic!

  • malc 10th Aug ’15 – 5:03pm
    “Until the party re-visits the tuition fee mess there will be little if any trust from students.” Or anyone else for that matter, not least parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and anyone who bought into the “no more broken promises” narrative.

    “This policy more than any other needs Tim Farrons attention ”

    Absolutely! But his hands are tied because whatever he says, it will have no credibility and will split the Party. I honestly don’t know what the way forward is and I despair at the mess his predecessors have left Tim with. It cannot be resolved.

  • David Allen 10th Aug '15 - 6:47pm

    Tuition fees are literally the last thing we should seek to develop a policy on. As Phyllis says, whatever we might propose will do us no good. Ed Miliband tried out a new scheme at the election, and it bombed.

    Opposing removal of benefits from the under 25s, and doing something for “generation rent”, are more immediately practical ways to help the young.

  • Anne, this is politics and it is hard and ruthless, the Conservatives virtually put us out of business three months ago.
    There is no place for niceness! Have you been a councillor? It is about power and survival, in our case the latter comes first.
    I before E except after C yes that was my bad.

  • Richard Underhill 10th Aug '15 - 8:38pm

    theakes 10th Aug ’15 – 4:20pm ” .. we have to defeat the Green party and put them out of business …”.
    The Greens are strongly identified with the enviromental cause. it is doubtfuk we could close them down, even if we wanted to. Even the continuing-SDP continues with one life peer, although they came behind the Monster Raving Looney Party in a parliamentaru by-election in Merseyside.

  • John Roffey 10th Aug '15 - 8:55pm

    Richard Underhill 10th Aug ’15 – 8:38pm

    “The Greens are strongly identified with the enviromental cause. it is doubtfuk we could close them down, even if we wanted to. Even the continuing-SDP continues with one life peer, although they came behind the Monster Raving Looney Party in a parliamentaru by-election in Merseyside.”

    Amalgamation might be better – they have plenty of followers – but a very poor structure and organisation – whereas the Lib/Dems have an established organisation and too few supporters.

    Together [The Green Liberals?] – the numbers should provide enough votes to translate into far more than 9 seats.

    Are there any serious policy conflicts – do you or anyone know?

  • John,

    I fear not, since the Green’s are well to the left of Jeremy Corbyn these days on many issues. Have a look at their manifesto… (all to be paid for by tax avoiders BTW).

    I suspect there are only a handful of seats where Green + Liberal Democrat gives a majority as well. You can check here if you like, but I only see 5 in our top ten targets, with one or two like Bath further down… http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/2015guide/lib-dem-targets/

    In local elections in particular there is no doubt that we fish in the same pond as the Greens. Personally I think that tacitly avoiding each other will be more profitable than trying to slug it out in most places

  • Thanks for that Andrew.

    I am afraid I am dogged with the concern that the Party is going to have great difficulty surviving in the new, far more competitive landscape, where there are three parties attempting to attract the floating voters [apart from the national parties]. I am also concerned that the rifts in the Party are not going to heal for some time. The king is dead – long live the king is simply not applying – evidenced by the Carol/ Tony Greaves thread.

    If some merger with the Greens had been possible – it would have provided the elements for a fresh start.

    The issue of the Lib/Dems getting more seats in the Lords was aired again on C4 News – apparently the tradition is that these seats are allocated so that the appointments, as far as possible, create the same ratio, in the Lords, for each party as votes cast at the GE.

    The Lib/Dems were viewed as the evil ones as they already have too many Lords – not far behind Cameron – who has torn up the rule book by not creating any UKIP Lords. [The SNP do not want any – they are for an elected hose].

  • Peter Bancroft 10th Aug '15 - 11:06pm

    The Lib Dems have always had the choice of being pro-young people in a way that the party of the trade unions/ benefits and those of the home owning middle class have not. Sadly, the party has taken the understandable view that few young people vote therefore it’s not really worthwhile being that pro youth.

    We have been reasonably good on higher education (though politically awful), we offer nice words on housing but as yet we choose to copy the Labour party and we have nothing to offer on taxing income vs. wealth. By and large, these are policies which supports the further concentration of wealth to the older generations and those inheriting money from them. I feel like this may have been unintentional, but the look and feel of party literature, the luke warm stance on modern technology issues and these very real economical issues mean that it is inevitable that we are so weak in the youth vote. Maybe one day those in our way will die off and things will change.

  • Richard Stallard 11th Aug '15 - 12:44am

    It’s very simple, really. It’s how liberals are perceived:
    Liberals are seen as jolly nice, middle-of-the-road types (if a little naive at times), who want to see the best in everyone and support equality, diversity and other fluffy-bunny concepts.

    This is pretty much opposed to how youth view the world:
    Remember the first time you fell in love? Was it not “madly, truly, deeply”, and you flung yourself into it wholeheartedly? Did you have a sport you played with passion, or an activity that you took up, or a music genre you followed, that totally consumed you, to the exclusion of most everything else? You probably held rather more extreme views (on anything, not just politics) and saw most things in black and white? Who are the suicide bombers and fighters of Islamic State? Are they the older, more considered types, or the young hotheads infatuated with an ideal? Youth expect things to happen quickly and to see instant results, particularly as technology and the faster pace of the world already makes this happen in so many areas.

    And have you noticed how your views have mellowed over time? How you now see flaws in what you once held as unassailable truth and have modified your views accordingly? Have you not come to Liberalism after following other paths and finding them wanting?

    Youth is a time of extremes. Extreme emotion and extreme views. So sorry, middle-aged, middle-of-the-road, nice, considerate and considering people of the LDs. You may get a few youngsters interested (just as a few, no doubt, still collect stamps, play in brass bands and spot trains), but for most of them, you just ain’t rad enough!

  • John Roffey 11th Aug '15 - 1:22am

    Andrew 10th Aug ’15 – 9:47pm

    “In local elections in particular there is no doubt that we fish in the same pond as the Greens. Personally I think that tacitly avoiding each other will be more profitable than trying to slug it out in most places”

    It seems that Norman Baker shares my concerns:

    With the opposition parties in tatters, we’re in danger of sleepwalking into a one party state
    With the state of the left-leaning parties today it would seem that the Tories are here to stay

    “The Lib Dems may well have an energetic new leader in Tim Farron, but they were reduced to a pile of rubble at the last election, while the Green Party is stuck on just one MP. The feisty Scot Nats have their tails up, but they lack the legitimacy to challenge the Tory Government over English matters, and have replaced the Labour and Lib Dem MPs who did have that legitimacy.

    But just in case the opposition parties can somehow get their act together, the Tories are pressing ahead with the boundary changes that the Lib Dems blocked in the last parliament, changes that will increase the Tory majority by 30 or 40.”

    http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/with-the-opposition-parties-in-tatters-were-in-danger-of-sleepwalking-into-a-one-party-state-10448844.html

    Perhaps some talks with the Greens would be worthwhile – just to make sure that some merger or alliance couldn’t be done – they too must recognise the dangers raised by NB.

  • “Amalgamation might be better – they have plenty of followers – but a very poor structure and organisation – whereas the Lib/Dems have an established organisation and too few supporters.”

    If survival requires throwing In our lot with illiberal Eco-socialists we may as well pack up and go home.

  • The very real danger that we face is that if we position ourselves to the left of what was once Blairite/Brownite Labour, the political territory concerned is going to be extremely crowded – Corbynite Labour, Greens, Plaid Cymru, SNP – and we will have the utmost difficulty in persuading the electorate that we have a USP that should mean that people ought to vote for us rather than other parties in the the same area of the political spectrum.

    Where there is going to be scope for us is in “centre left” political territory, and what we need to devise are a set of policies which are more realistic in practical and economic terms than that of the parties to our left. The challenge is not an impossible one and we have to hope that it is achievable.

  • I wouldn’t say British politics is in constant battle with da yoot. In truth it’s in battle with virtually everyone because it often seems to only represent itself. If you listen to political debate you’d think public and grammar schools were the norm, that people on average incomes were poor, that the electorate was an inconvenience that got in the way of democracy and that there should be a burning interest about the twitter account of minister of paperclips.

  • Theakes. Exactly why people are sick of politics, all a question of personal power and nothing to do with making life better for the electorate. At least you are honest about your motivation.

  • Anne, it is not personal power, it is power to lead and create so that you can “make life better for the elctorate” . That is probably what is inspiring the left in the Labour leadership election right now.
    We have a very difficult but important by election at Exeter Pinhoe on Thursday. We came behind the Greens at the General in Exeter, another of our disasters, and Pinhoe last time they outpolled us almost 2 -1. We cannot be seen to be behind them yet again, but I fear it could well happen.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Aug '15 - 1:07pm

    Jamie Dwan

    Many politicians look with disdain and surprise at the rise of anti-establishment figures such as Russell Brand. The reason so many young people look to well-known figures such as Brand, is that they offer a uniquely communicated message. Although the values that Brand offers are populist, they are confused and lack any form of substance. Nevertheless, they seem to offer a clear alternative to the so called “political elite of Westminster”.

    The issue here is that celebrities, pressure groups, people sitting at a bar putting the world to right and so on don’t have to offer a coherent set of policies which covers everything and works. Politicians do, especially politicians who are actually holding power.

    I stay quiet in political discussions when I’m with a casual group of people because such discussion often involves naive assumptions and failure to consider why the solutions proposed that politicians are bad people for not considering wouldn’t work in practice. A lot of time the answer to the question “Why don’t politicians do this?” is “Because you’d complain at the tax rises it would need”, or it may be “Because you’d complain about the green land being built over” or “You’d complain about the cuts in services it would lead to” and so on. Mostly in that situation I just can’t be bothered to put the “it’s not so simple as that” explanation.

    So politicians with real responsibilities do look slippery and weak when they have to temper everything they say with the practical if-and-buts, while the celebrities and so on are never going to be in the position where they are held accountable for the consequence of the simplistic solution they propose to one problem (which actually would just lead to other problems elsewhere). Of course, young people lacking in life experience are particularly vulnerable to being taken in by simplistic supposed solutions where the balancing costs are not stated.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Aug '15 - 1:14pm

    Anne

    Exactly why people are sick of politics, all a question of personal power and nothing to do with making life better for the electorate.

    Rubbish. It is people like you that help the political right, people like you that put the Tories into perpetual power.

    Because that’s the line the Tories and economic right-wingers love: “Politics is all bad, so let’s have less of it. Let’s put power instead into the hands of businessmen”. The political left relies on the power of the people using democracy to challenge the power of money, so when the political right can’t win direct support for its “make the rich richer and the poor poorer” policies, it shuts up the potential opposition to those policies by persuading those who would be part of that opposition not to get involved in politics at all, not even to vote because it’s “all a question of personal power and nothing to do with making life better for the electorate”.

    I spent over 30 years active in politics, trying to push policies to make the world and the communities I was in better and fairer places. But I was sickened by the constant negative attacks that were made on me by the very people I wanted to help, accusations that I was just in it for myself, where the reality was that I had made enormous sacrifices in my personal life because of the time I devoted to politics.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Aug '15 - 1:26pm

    Andrew

    I fear not, since the Green’s are well to the left of Jeremy Corbyn these days on many issues. Have a look at their manifesto… (all to be paid for by tax avoiders BTW).

    Well yes, but remember what happened when their leader was questioned on how they would actually pay for it and made pathetic excuses as to why she could not answer that?

    Sure, it would be nice if one could just pass a simple law “Tax avoidance is illegal” and it wouldn’t happen, but it isn’t that simple. The whole point of tax avoidance is to look at the letter of the law and find something which keeps to the letter but not the spirit. Change the law, and they’ll just find another loophole. If it was easy-peasy to patch it up so there were no loopholes and loopholes could not exist, that would have been done. But it isn’t.

    Corbyn himself is doing an awful lot of hand-waving which in reality amounts to “my policies will work so wonderfully well that you needn’t bother your little heads as to exactly how they will be paid for”. Well, that’s also the Tory line, don’t worry about tax cuts because they’ll make the economy grow and that’ll raise more money, so it’ll all work out fine. Except it hasn’t. And I’m not sure “borrow loads of money, and spend it to boost the economy” will work out fine either. Isn’t that what the Greeks tried? And after that Syriza came in waving their hands and making out there were easy-peasy ways out of what it led to. Except there weren’t.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Aug '15 - 1:35pm

    David Wallace

    I will now campaign for a single issue party called CISTA (Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol) and I bet we will get more of the youth vote than the lib Dems in London and Scotland next year.

    Well that’s easy-peasy, isn’t it? You can make yourself look oh-so-good by just talking about one issue. What about all the other issues? If you really were in government you’d have to deal with them. What about the “wah wah, I can’t afford the housing I need”? What’s your solution to that? And if it’s “Build more houses” what about the “wah wah, how DARE you wreck the environment by building on that lovely open space” that any real plan to build more houses leads to? And if you dare go down the route of discouraging over-occupation by land taxation, well, you’ll not just get the “wah wah, how DARE you throw little old ladies out of their homes”, you’ll also get the “wah wah, that’s an attack on aspiration”.

    Oh, and during my time as a university lecturer dealing with personal student issues, I’ve seen enough lives wrecked by cannabis usage that I’m not so certain about your line. So many students who did well at the start, then fell to pieces and never got back and completed their degree, and in that case it tends to be that the reason is that they got into cannabis.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Aug '15 - 1:42pm

    David Wallace

    Well you were doing well with the youth, I think in 2010 around half of all first time voters were voting lib dem, that could have become a life long habit until the party decided that what they really, really, really needed to do was break a huge personal promise made to the young and saddle them with a life time of debt.

    And more easy-peasy. So how were 57 Liberal Democrat MPs going to persuade 307 Conservative MPs to break their deepest pledge and support the tax rises it would require to fully subsidise universities? Alternatively, what additional cuts on top of those already made should the LibDems have argued for in order to pay for it without tax rises? Maybe “Oh, we’ve kept the pledge – free university education to all who get a university place*”.

    * But we’ve closed down half the universities so there aren’t many places left.

  • Matthew,
    No one was expecting the Lib Dems to win over the pledge. It.s the fact that there was barley an attempt to keep to the easiest part of it which was to vote against the rise and then when an apology came it was for making the pledge not for breaking it. You cannot sign things in front of cameras and then not expect a comeback. And let’s be a bit more honest, Clegg and Laws never agreed with the pledge in the first place and IMO were too politically myopic to see the damage done to the Lib Dems . It’s time to stop defending this debacle and put it down to poor leadership

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Aug '15 - 5:50pm

    Glenn

    No one was expecting the Lib Dems to win over the pledge. It’s the fact that there was barely an attempt to keep to the easiest part of it which was to vote against the rise

    If you vote against the rise, you also have to vote against the cut in direct funding to universities which was supposed to be replaced by the fees. Then you have to vote for how you are going to pay for not having that cut. So, no, it’s not “easy”, and you are making my point well by claiming it is.

    I’m not claiming that Clegg handled it well, in fact I’ve made clear my view that he handled it very badly. I’m not saying I was surprised there was a comeback.


    Clegg and Laws never agreed with the pledge in the first place

    But Clegg did choose to single it out as a “pledge” and in a way that could only be interpreted as it being a “red line” in coalition negotiations.

    It’s time to stop defending this debacle and put it down to poor leadership

    Er, have you tried reading most of what I wrote in Liberal Democrat Voice during the time of the Coalition? I think you might find that I myself thought Clegg to be a somewhat poor leader.

    I do think it should have been made crystal clear that the reason some Liberal Democrats MPs went against the pledge was that there was absolutely no way the Conservatives would have agreed to the tax rises that it required. Simply voting against tuition fee rises would have resulted in a crisis in universities, denying them of funding. The reality would have been a fix-up which almost certainly would have involved large-scale cuts. The compromise of agreeing to the fees, but insisting on a generous loan system, meant no-one was barred from university (o.k. for full time first degrees) from lack of funding, and universities retained their funding.

    I would have preferred the continuation of direct state funding through higher taxes, but I can see that if this were not possible due to the Tories refusing to agree to it, what we had was a better compromise than it seems at first. Of course Clegg should have made clear this was a compromise, not a new ideal. But he did this sort of thing throughout the coalition. I have never defended him for that, in fact it had been the centre of my criticism of it.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Aug '15 - 5:57pm

    Now my point is that the childish line which states that the Liberal Democrats could have voted against tuition fees with no balancing consequences is stifling the debate that is needed, and letting the Tories win. Because in effect it agrees with the Tories: if universities don’t actually need paying for, there is no need for taxes for them, so when the Tories propose tax cuts, and denounce as “the politics of envy” anyone who disagrees, people accept that. So they push the line that the political left are bad people for opposing tax cuts, and the political left push the lines that the political right are bad people for making service cuts. And the people of this country think both are correct in that.

    So they then say all politicians are bad, and go along with hand-wavers who don’t have to face reality, and the political right wins really, because they benefit the most from the dropping out of mass political activity.

  • Phil Beesley 11th Aug '15 - 7:49pm

    Matthew Huntbach: “I would have preferred the continuation of direct state funding through higher taxes, but I can see that if this were not possible due to the Tories refusing to agree to it, what we had was a better compromise than it seems at first. ”

    I never believed the free tuition fees policy to be sustainable (particularly after the financial disruptions of c. 2008), but accept that the coalition comprise is fair to students. It is fairer than the previous fee arrangement for students. If this Conservative government significantly changes the repayment terms or subsidies to students from low income families, however, more mud will be thrown at the Lib Dems.

    One way forward for the Lib Dems is to create a more coherent post-18 years education policy. It would be one that recognises that government took the wrong path when it set a university entry target of 40%+ of school leavers. Post-18 years education is much more than attending university full time, but university education grabs all of the headlines. How do we restore the signalling value of a “good” first degree so that students do not feel required to get a master’s?

    Over the last few years, apprenticeships have received more attention and I am delighted that more choice is available. I don’t know whether contemporary apprenticeships are comparable to those of the past which allowed many young people to take the next step to a degree or professional qualification. How many articled clerks became solicitors in 2015? What assistance should be available to older students studying at OU or night school? Do we believe that education is a utilitarian objective or a good thing in itself?

    Whether anyone believes the party’s policies is an entirely different problem to resolve.

  • Even the lib dem poster Matthew agrees that the single issue cannabis party CISTA will get more votes from the young than the lib dems.

    Such a party would not get more young votes than labour or even the Tories though. If that’s the case then the party has to answer some serious questions, considering that it had around 50% of the youth vote just five years ago.

    Will the young now turn into life long labour voters?

  • Richard Stallard 11th Aug '15 - 9:56pm

    “Will the young now turn into life long labour voters?”
    Probably not. Many of them will be drawn to the extremes in their early years and then mellow and change their minds as their bank balances increase, their priorities change and they start to experience the real world.

  • David:

    If you want to misrepresent Matthew Huntbach you should at least say that he thinks young people who are attracted to CISTA will be too stoned to bother going anywhere to vote.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Aug ’15 – 5:57pm ……………Now my point is that the childish line which states that the Liberal Democrats could have voted against tuition fees with no balancing consequences is stifling the debate that is needed, and letting the Tories win……………

    The idea that universities would have closed down had tuition fees not risen is the ‘childish line’….Tuition fees was THE promise that should not have been broken….It was more than just a promise it was a pledge by individual MPs that defined the LibDems….It’s abandonment, without a whimper (at least in public), destroyed us as a party and I can’t believe that Tory HQ wasn’t aware of that fact….

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Aug '15 - 10:31am

    expats

    The idea that universities would have closed down had tuition fees not risen is the ‘childish line’…

    Please read this article from today’s Guardian newspaper. Why do you accuse me of being “childish” when just what I said would have happened to universities had they stayed under direct state funding IS happening to sixth form colleges which have remained under direct state funding?

    You have ignored, once again, what I have said here in order to gain personal satisfaction by jeering “nah nah nah nah nah”, while ignoring reality. It is YOU “nah nah nah nah nah”s who I blame for putting the Tories into complete power where we are now seeing how even worse they are when they don’t have the Liberal Democrats doing what they can to push them to a slightly more moderate position. Not only did your “nah nah nah nah nah”s destroy the Liberal Democrats where they had won against the Tories in so many places, and so handed those places back to the Tories, but by refusing or ignoring the central issue here, that of the necessity to balance spending with taxation, you have let the Tories win the propaganda war, with (until Corbyn came along) Labour now agreeing with them that the tax rises necessary to pay for universities etc are “an attack on aspiration”, “anti-business” and all that other far-right nonsense.

    If the Liberal Democrats had outside backing when they stood up to the Tories, I believe they could have achieved more. They were very much weakened when they turned round to look for it, and all they got was “nah nah nah nah nah” from the likes of you.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Aug '15 - 10:44am

    expats

    Tuition fees was THE promise that should not have been broken….It was more than just a promise it was a pledge by individual MPs that defined the LibDems….It’s abandonment, without a whimper (at least in public), destroyed us as a party

    Sure, and I have already said, and was saying continuously throughout the time of the Coalition, that the Liberal Democrat leadership was playing it all wrong. By putting across the message of seeming self-satisfied and triumphant about having what was actually a minor influence on a predominantly Conservative government, they gave the impression that Liberal Democrats loved the policies of that government and they were what the Liberal Democrats would have done if they had governed alone. I probably wrote literally hundreds of times here in LibDem Voice about how I felt that was the wrong approach, and that instead the Liberal Democrats should have been open from the start about the Coalition being very much a “miserable little compromise”, so why do you and others who must have read much what I wrote, continue to address me as if I am a mad keen Cleggie who agreed with all that the leader of the party at the time said and did?

    The point I am making is that the Conservatives just would not have agreed to the tax rises or straight government borrowing that would have enabled full direct state funding of universities. But you have ignored that, because you continue to push the childish message that state spending has no balance, that it can be done through a wave of the hand.

    The Liberal Democrats WERE placed in the difficult position that had they pushed for the pledge, the balancing costs would have been destruction of the university system through big cuts, as has happened with sixth form colleges. Would you have preferred to have seen those big cuts, but the Liberal Democrats able to say (to the much diminished number who still got a university place) “but we kept our pledge”? Yes or no?

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Aug '15 - 10:54am

    Phil Beesley

    I never believed the free tuition fees policy to be sustainable (particularly after the financial disruptions of c. 2008),

    Why not? If it exists, it is being paid for, so why do you believe it would be “unsustainable” to pay for it through direct taxation when underneath much the same money is going through much the same hands in much the same way to pay for it through the tuition fees and loans system?

    It is perfectly sustainable IF people are willing to pay the taxation that would sustain it. And they have the money to do so, as otherwise the university system would not exist at all.

    This is where the “nah nah nah nah nah”s have so helped the Tories and the political right, because by pushing the line that the Liberal Democrats could easily-peasily have kept their pledge just by a wave of their hands, they have let the Tories get away with their right-wing lines that tax is a bad thing and only done out of “envy” and so on. By joining with the Tories in not talking about the balance issues, the “nah nah nah nah nah”s have helped close down what should be the main topic of political debate, which is how in a society of growing complexity and need for services, we very much DO need tax rises to keep those services available in the best way.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Aug '15 - 10:56am

    Phil Beesley

    I don’t know whether contemporary apprenticeships are comparable to those of the past

    They are not, they are a cheap propaganda thing, nothing like the long-term serious apprenticeship system of the past.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Aug ’15 – 10:31am …

    Matthew, I did not accuse you of being childish; I referred to the idea…You seem extremely agitated any personal remarks and yet are so quick to accuse me of having only “Nah, nah, etc” politics (BTW, that phrase is well past it’s sell-by date)….

    As for….”It is YOU “nah nah nah nah nah”s who I blame for putting the Tories into complete power where we are now seeing how even worse they are when they don’t have the Liberal Democrats doing what they can to push them to a slightly more moderate position”….. The blame lies far, far more with the ex-leadership who could have used the coalition to define “differences instead of similarities”…

    If you read my history you’ll find that I have often tried to be constructive…Sadly, alternatives to the ‘Clegg knows best’ line were not very welcome on LDV pre-2015 (as you, and others, experienced)

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Aug '15 - 11:05am

    Phil Beesley

    How do we restore the signalling value of a “good” first degree so that students do not feel required to get a master’s?

    By abandoning the targetting and league table approach, which in effect tells universities to dumb down their teaching. It ought to be regarded as good when a course has a high failure rate (as it is in other countries) because that indicates that those who have passed have made a real achievement. But it is regarded as very bad, it pulls you down the league tables, and makes the naive think you are a no good university. So, there is an easy-peasy solution, dumb down. Dumb down and down and down, have easy-peasy assessments which everyone passes, course-work (which they all plagiarise and you turn a blind eye to), and simplistic multiple-chocie tests rather than real sit-down tests of deep skill.

    By the way, that’s not what I do in the module I teach, I’m resisting the pressure to dumb down, which is why those who pass it with a good grade can graduate and go straight into a good job, as the employers know it means they really do have the skills which are in such great demand. And (shameless plug) we’ll have few places going in Clearing tomorrow, for anyone who needs one and is up to the challenge.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Aug '15 - 11:15am

    expats

    If you read my history you’ll find that I have often tried to be constructive…Sadly, alternatives to the ‘Clegg knows best’ line were not very welcome on LDV pre-2015 (as you, and others, experienced)

    Yes, and now I find when I just repeat what I was saying all these years, I am told “oh you are just saying that with hindsight” when most definitely I am not. Many others now are saying they can see these points, but no credit is being given to those who made them at the time when had the leadership acted on them the party would not have been so damaged.

    On the tuition fees issue, all I am saying now and all I have ever said is that I can understand the argument that the Liberal Democrats were placed in a difficult situation where insisting on keeping the pledge would have had devastating consequences, whereas breaking it would save the university system and keep it accessible to all, and the actual amounts paid by real people wouldn’t be that much different from the ideal, given that the ideal involved higher taxes.

    So I don’t think those who agreed to the compromise, and put their effort into making the loans system and write-off so generous that it actually amounted to more state funding than before, are so bad people as they are painted for having taken that path. And that painting HAS destroyed the Liberal Democrats, and that destruction HAS put the Tories back into full power. As I said it would at the time.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Aug ’15 – 11:15am………………. Yes, and now I find when I just repeat what I was saying all these years, I am told “oh you are just saying that with hindsight” when most definitely I am not. Many others now are saying they can see these points, but no credit is being given to those who made them at the time when had the leadership acted on them the party would not have been so damaged……………….

    Matthew, you were not the only voice “crying in the wilderness” I’ve been ‘modded’ over NHS reorganisation, bedroom tax and secret courts (to name just three subjects) when my comments were neither abusive nor contrary to how we fought the 2010 election……Much support was lost after the rose garden press call but most would have returned had our leadership shown that the coalition was more a forced marriage than a love match….

  • expats: re:

    of having only “Nah, nah, etc” politics (BTW, that phrase is well past it’s sell-by date)….

    On the contrary, this phrase is just coming into flower with a prospect of bearing fruit. I imagine that most in Labour thought they were being clever to oppose everything in the coalition despite that more that 95% is what they themselves would have done. As Matthew says, Labour could have cooperated with Lib Dems to put pressure on the Tories and thereby exacted better concessions. Instead they have boxed themselves into a corner that not only lost them the election, but has led to a leadership campaign that is validated by the ‘nan, nah, nah’ mantra of the last five years.

    Labour think there problem is that they have been unfairly blamed for the consequences of the 2008 crash, actually the problem is that many in Labour have refused to grasp the reality of the economic downturn, hoping that by ignoring it as they have been want to do for the past five years, that it will go away.

    At the rate Labour are going the downturn really will have gone away by the time they have any chance of being in government.

  • Martin 12th Aug ’15 – 7:57pm …………..expats: re:………of having only “Nah, nah, etc” politics (BTW, that phrase is well past it’s sell-by date)…. …On the contrary, this phrase is just coming into flower with a prospect of bearing fruit. I imagine that most in Labour thought they were being clever to oppose everything in the coalition despite that more that 95% is what they themselves would have done. As Matthew says, Labour could have cooperated with Lib Dems to put pressure on the Tories and thereby exacted better concessions. Instead they have boxed themselves into a corner that not only lost them the election, but has led to a leadership campaign that is validated by the ‘nan, nah, nah’ mantra of the last five years……….

    More rewriting of history…What with “75% of coalition policies being LibDem” we now have “more than 95% of coalition policies being Labour”…It’s amazing just how few must have been Tory….. Clegg/Alexander/Laws (to say nothing of LDV) spent 5 years blaming Labour for all the country’s ills.
    Which policy differences, apart from HoL reform, did the LibDem leadership put forward that Labour should have supported; NHS reorganisation, tuition fees, secret courts, bedroom tax? Labour voted against these as should LibDems.

    As for “Nah, nah, nah”…..Those gloating, on LDV, over Labour’s problems might try Matthew (not Huntbach) 7.3 regarding “beams and motes”

  • Expats:

    Yes, it is rather silly of me to put a number, however it was based on Alistair Darling’s and Labour’s own economic prescriptions in 2010. On tuition fees, the rewriting of history seems to be on the side that appears to have conveniently forgotten who set up the parameters of the Browne report on tuition fees.

    In practice governments are constrained by events and external limitations, so they are a lot less different than their supporters would like them to be. The point is that Labour liked to present the last government as “the most right wing in living memory”. This was indeed the obverse to those who explicitly blamed Labour for the economic crisis. Neither are correct, though the coalition government did have to deal with the most severe economic downturn in living memory. In fact, if you took note of what Nick Clegg and most other Lib Dems said, Labour was not explicitly blamed, the formulation was that the coalition government had inherited an economy in crisis. and did not say that Labour had caused the crisis. Some did say that Labour policies before 2008 had made problems worse and this is what some Labour politicians feel should be acknowledged.

    My point is that the Labour portrayal of the coalition now has the effect of pushing Labour towards a political position that is likely to prove counterproductive and internally divisive.

  • Once again Lib Dems spend time and energy attacking Labour instead of the Tories. Plus ça change…

  • Martin 13th Aug ’15 – 8:48am ……………. In fact, if you took note of what Nick Clegg and most other Lib Dems said, Labour was not explicitly blamed, the formulation was that the coalition government had inherited an economy in crisis. and did not say that Labour had caused the crisis….

    Really?
    In January 2014 ( on his radio programme), referring to Labour’s proposal to limit RBS bonuses Nick said, “I almost admire the chutzpah of these people who created this mess going around to tell people how to clear it up…..”It was verging on the bizarre that the Labour Party thought they had anything to teach anyone about the banks because they are single handedly responsible for the biggest collapse in our banking system in the postwar period.”…..

  • The coalition also scrapped the Education Maintenance Allowance (there are probably other things as well) and preserved all pensioner benefits. This is the past though and I am interested in what we can do to win backed liberal minded young people.

    Without jettisoning university/FE I think it’s hard to make ground here given the past. Maybe a more reactive response to individual illiberal Tory policies as and when they occur is best? The author’s points about housing benefit (I agree) are a start but I’d like to see a big offer regarding having somewhere to live (private and Council/Housing Associations).
    I take on board Mr Huntbach’s salient point that simple house-building solutions normally lead to other noses out of joint but I think/hope Tim will not be afraid to do that!

  • Richard Underhill 13th Aug '15 - 10:30pm

    After the general election two teenage girls did a selfie with Stephen Lloyd in Eastbourne.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Aug '15 - 9:53am

    expats

    More rewriting of history…What with “75% of coalition policies being LibDem” we now have “more than 95% of coalition policies being Labour”…It’s amazing just how few must have been Tory….. Clegg/Alexander/Laws (to say nothing of LDV) spent 5 years blaming Labour for all the country’s ills

    And there you go, once again, in effect accusing me of being a Cleggie. Now that’s one of the big problems with you “nah nah nah nah nah”s. Instead of recognising that there were and are a diversity of opinions in the Liberal Democrats, you accused us all of being 100% supporters of everything that Clegg and Laws etc were saying and doing. I say that because you wrote what I have quoted above in reply to comments I make, as if I myself supported Clegg etc blaming Labour for all the country’s ills.

    I did not. I very much opposed this line and said it was one of the things leading our party to disaster. One reason was because it undermined the defence that the Coalition was a necessary compromise arising from the situation after the May 2010 election and made it look as if it was a preference choice because we liked the Tories and disliked Labour – a DISASTROUS approach given that most of the seats we held were in palces where we were seen as the main opposition to the Tories. Another was that it was quite obviously plain wrong. What happened in the 2008 crash was a global thing, not confined to the UK, and so to write it up as if it was all the fault of the then UK government was a shameful untruth. In fact I would say that many of the enomic problems in the UK which came to light at that time were long-term problem arising as consequences of the Thatcher government and New Labour’s acceptance of Thatcherism, and therefore it was ludicrous to write them up as if the Blair/Brown government were red-in-the-tooth socialists and that was what cxaused them.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Aug ’15 – 9:53am ………….. And there you go, once again, in effect accusing me of being a Cleggie. Now that’s one of the big problems with you “nah nah nah nah nah”s.

    Perhaps if you read my post “expats 13th Aug ’15 – 8:07am” you’d see it was addressing “Martin 12th Aug ’15 – 7:57pm” and had nothing to do with you….

    BTW.. an apology would be appreciated!

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Aug '15 - 10:28am

    expats

    More rewriting of history…What with “75% of coalition policies being LibDem” we now have “more than 95% of coalition policies being Labour”…It’s amazing just how few must have been Tory….. Clegg/Alexander/Laws (to say nothing of LDV) spent 5 years blaming Labour for all the country’s ills.

    So that is why I see you “nah nah nah nah nah”s and the Cleggies as working together in your own coalition to destroy the Liberal Democrats as the party of which I was once a proud activist.

    By you “nah nah nah nah nah”s denying the very existence of people who held what were mainstream Liberal Democrat positions and were unhappy about the way some in the party were using the Coalition to push the party permanently to the right, you were helping them do what they wanted. You were helping them build up the image that was destroying our party. You refused to acknowledge the reality that there were many like myself who could see that the Coalition and what it was doing was a compromise situation, the best that could be done given the Parliamentary balance, but a very long way from our ideal. When I tried to explain that, all I got in reply from the likes of you was, in effect, “nah nah nah nah nah, you’re just saying that to hide the fact that really you love the Tories and what they are doing, and you just pretended otherwise in the 2010 election”.

    By not giving us the support we needed to challenge the Cleggies you helped them win their Pyrrhic victory. You kept going on and on about how you wanted to see us destroyed for having to accept the coalition compromises. And so we were, and as I predicted, the consequence was to hand complete control of the country to the Tories, because by destroying us you destroyed the main opposition to the Tories in many parts of the country.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Aug '15 - 10:38am

    expats

    Perhaps if you read my post “expats 13th Aug ’15 – 8:07am” you’d see it was addressing “Martin 12th Aug ’15 – 7:57pm” and had nothing to do with you….

    BTW.. an apology would be appreciated!

    Martin was writing in defence of my position. The words you wrote in reply to Martin only make sense in that context if you mean them to imply that I agreed with the Clegg etc lines.

    So far from me apologising to you, you should be apologising to me.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Aug ’15 – 10:38am….

    So you believe that “more than 95% of coalition policies were Labour”? Perhaps you might explain who and when in the leadership, made the slightest attempt to form any ‘common ground’ with Labour?

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Aug '15 - 7:10pm

    expats

    So you believe that “more than 95% of coalition policies were Labour”? Perhaps you might explain who and when in the leadership, made the slightest attempt to form any ‘common ground’ with Labour?

    Well, there you go again. I defend my own position, and in reply you ask me to defend the leadership of the Liberal Democrats during the Coalition years when I was one of the prime opponents of that leadership in that time and made clear that I was opposed to so much of what they said and did.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Aug '15 - 7:23pm

    David Wallace

    Matthew. I think you know as well as I do that tuition fees would not have been a deal breaker, how on earth are they managing to find the cash for 2.5% tripled locked pension increases when neither inflation nor the economy is growing that fast?

    Sorry, but no. The line that university tuition is simultaneously such an insignificant amount that the government could easily have paid it all out of small change and such a large amount that paying it back as student loan repayment means a lifetime of misery is quite obviously contradictory. However it is paid, it is what it costs. If it wasn’t paid in loan repayments it would be paid in tax payments.

    Labour was happy to joining in the “nah nah nah nah nah” attacks on the Liberal Democrats over the tuition fees issue, but it said nothing about how it would have paid to subsidise universities. And neither did all those parading the streets in protest about it, the whole debate was ridiculous because those attacking the Liberal Democrats were not willing to put their money where their mouths were and actually campaign FOR the higher taxes that would be needed ti properly subsidise universities.

    As I have said, I can very clearly see that the cost of the Liberal Democrats insisting on full state subsidy of universities would have been to reduce the amount required by big cuts in universities. So many have attacked me for saying this as if it is silly, but huge cuts HAVE been made in further education, so why are those who attack me so confident that higher education would not have seen the same had it remained directly state funded?

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Aug '15 - 7:31pm

    expats

    So you believe that “more than 95% of coalition policies were Labour”?

    Had Labour been in government 2010-15, it would have been forced to make difficult decisions similar to those the actual government made, yes. It had no coherent plans for an alternative. If it had such plans it should have put them forward and challenged the Liberal Democrats to support them, and that would have been true constructive opposition. But it didn’t do that because it couldn’t. It wanted to win by jeering “nah nah nah nah nah” at the Liberal Democrats, supposing that would cause enough votes to swing its way, rather than coming up with real alternative and workable policies and putting the case for them.

    That’s why it lost so badly. Its “nah nah nah nah nah” strategy destroyed the Liberal Democrats, yes, but as most Liberal Democrat seats were in formerly Tory areas, that just helped the Tories. As that strategy was all about not making and promoting a coherent alternative, it left people, quite rightly, unconvinced that Labour had anything better to offer. So people either didn’t vote, or even ended up voting Tory on the grounds “Better the devil you know”.

  • After the ‘Rose Garden’ love in much support was lost but, as I’ve said before, that could have been regained had the leadership made the slightest effort to show the coalition was anything else than an ongoing meeting of minds..
    When the pretence over tuition fees was ditched in late 2010 support fell to 8% where it stayed….

    After the 2011 local election disaster even Clegg admitted it was due to the public believing that LibDems were supporting ‘Thatcherlike’ policies and yet did nothing to change that perception….

    You talk about Labour having no policies that could allow common ground but I’d suggest the NHS re-organisation could/should have been the point when some sort of agreement on curbing Tory ideology was possible; instead Clegg signed up with gusto…
    As for your “Nah, nah, nah” Clegg used every opportunity to blame Labour for all the county’s ills instead of thinking beyond 2015….When deputising for Cameron at PMQs Clegg used every opportunity (cheered on by Alexander) to accuse Labour of “having no place in offering remedies as THEY were soley responsible for crashing the UK economy (a theme he repeated, ad nauseam, right up to 2015’s GE…)

  • Expats you are absolutely right. I personally was so disappointed by the Rose Garden that I doubted I would vote LD ever again but I would have come back if Clegg et al had stopped the NHS reforms. Instead Lib dem MPs cheered with the Tories and when it went through. No wonder people turned away. No, Labour did not destroy the Lib Dems, the Lib Dem Parliamentarians destroyed the Lib Dems. Time to face up to that.

  • Nick Collins 15th Aug '15 - 1:07pm

    Phyllis, on another thread you told me that I was “absolutely right”. I am happy to return the compliment on this one.

    But please do not fall into the trap of describing the Tory policies of the last government as “reforms”.

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